The arrival of three big movies in a week at the Gaumont Parnasse multiplex made it hard to move inside tonight for people. I doubt many in the queues stretching far out into Odessa Street got seats at all.
The Kid (14) and I instead entered the 'Underworld' in the late afternoon, our usual strategy when a lot of publicity heralds such films.
Straight off afterwards, she surprised me by giving it 9/10 (her second "great film" of the year).
Kate Beckinsale (Selene) looks fine in leather and proves as handy with a high-tech automatic pistol and assorted other weapons as Trinity, taking on the Lycans, to whom she's a hardened death dealer, and some of her own vampire kind alike.
She's swiftly enamoured of Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin, the surgeon with a secret he knows nothing about, which has him wanted, alive or dead, by both sides in a war between werewolves and vampires dating back to the Middle Ages.
Advance hype sold the Gothic action film as a 'Romeo and Juliet' variation in the domain of the undead, but 'West Side Story' stuck a darned sight closer to Shakespeare than this violent yarn, which begs the inevitable comparisons with the 'Matrix' suite. Were the likeness to be pursued, Selene has less in common with Trinity than with Neo, not being short on style and self-confidence when needed in the face of hair-raising odds.
What 'Underworld' lacks in the sexual charge and currents more or less explicit in Dracula stories, it amply makes up for with a breathless and outrageous plot, blood by the skinful, hypodermic syringes in diabolical close-up, some terrific special effects and as darkly atmospheric a setting, lighting and costumes as any movie made so far this century.
Len Wiseman filmed much of his first feature as director in Budapest with many a Hungarian in the crew, particularly in the art direction and make-up departments. His old central European capital remains oppressive, it's raining most of the time and nearly everything happens in strong shades of the post-industrial blues, with lashings of Burgundy or body-bit red.
The soundtrack is a phenomenal racket of battles, metal and techno, roars and gore, with no room for urbane chat or indeed any dialogue apart from what's absolutely indispensable to a plot.
The main villain may be obvious from the outset — Shane Brolly in a mediocre performance as an aspiring and unconvincing chief vamp — but other characters get a chance to introduce enough new slants on the millennial war to jolt the plot into some unpredictable twists. Especially when they get woken up before their time.